Having accepted that Ireland will not hit its afforestation target by 2046, the government is now looking at a number of ways to increase planting. Agriculture Minister Michael Creed would like to see Coillte buying land again. This will not only benefit the country’s performance against target, but also make sense for Coillte, given their need for a steady supply of timber.
“Coillte has been out of forestry, other than managing its existing forest plantations. It has not been active in planting new lands for quite some time.
“Coillte has a vested interest: it requires constant supply of timber for its own industries – Medite, biomass – so it’s a sensible fit for them, in terms of their core activities, to be involved in afforestation.”
This alone will not see Ireland meet its target however, and private landowners planting part of their land is necessary. It had ben expected that a higher number of farmers would have taken advantage of the afforestation programmes and the Minister acknowledges that mistakes were made in the past, which hindered this. Forestry is not viewed in a positive light by many and this needs to change.
“Part of that is because of the perception that if you plant your land, that, in some way, you failed as a farmer,” said Mr. Creed. “It’s not looked on like any other crop, just because it takes a longer period to grow, but it delivers hugely for the State, so we need to look at how we do that. We must regain a control of the narratve that forestry is a positive thing”.
“Certainly, there were mistakes in the past and communities are understandably engaged in the forestry debate, because of the experience. But the afforestation programme today is very different to that. It’s not exclusively sitka spruce; it’s not plantations right up to the public roadway any longer, so we have learned from the mistakes of the past.”